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Happy Birthday to Me.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Today is my thirty-fifth birthday. I can't believe it. Today would have also been my mother's seventy-first birthday had she not passed away five days ago. Her gift to me today is that we get to spread her ashes down at Willowbrook Cemetery (weather permitting, of course) greet our relatives and be finished with the ceremony of it. That will be good. My gift to her is this blog post, I guess. All it is is electrons and ether, but I've never been big on materialism.

I want to approach how I blog about my mother's death carefully. It's very personal for everybody involved, including the dying person herself. At first I wasn't sure if I should, but I wrote to the blogger king, and he said I could do anything.

Monday I woke up with a hangover and wrote my mom's obituary. Then I jotted down the timeline of my activities from Thursday January 10th at 5:30pm until Sunday January 13th at 2:08pm. I think if I just write out this timeline, and fill it in a little, that will do. I won't have to keep talking about this. If I don't write about what happened at all, I'll have to keep talking about it for the rest of my life in repressed, indirect ways. See?

Background- My mother went to the emergency room the morning of Monday January 7th from home. They moved her up to Shep 4 that afternoon. Her room was on the east side of the Sheppardson Wing's 4th floor at the hospital with a window overlooking the original Mary Fletcher. She was there one week. I visited every day, but here's where it got intense...

Thursay 5:30pm- We drop off the kids with my wife's parents. She's going out with her friend to Sweetwaters and I'm dropping off cake at the new Healthy Living. Her friend drives her home and I meet her there. We go pick up the kids. On the way home from Colchester I start having a strong sense I should go to the hospital. I hadn't planned on leaving that late, but Poopsie let me go and I got to my mom's room on Shep 4 at 9:45pm. She was sleeping. She did not look comfortable. I was afraid to touch her or make any noise because I didn't want to wake her. I sat near her facing the door to the hall. On the wall outside was a black rectangular plaque given to the nurses by a patient. I watched my mom laboring and intense sadness started washing over me in waves. Boiling tears streamed down my face as I struggled not to make any noise. Finally at 10:00pm I decided to hold her hand. It was colder than I would have liked to have felt. I stayed like that until 10:05 and I went home.

That night I did not sleep. I blogged. I watched TV. I ate cereal. I took a shower. I made coffee. I went back to the hospital. No sleep.

Friday 6am- I arrive back at my mom's room not knowing what to expect. I'm happily surprised to be greeted by my mother's blazing blue eyes. She seems alert at first and I'm grateful to have her another day. But there's something up. She's upset at the nurses for doing something to her. She wants to get out of here. She whispers "How could you do this to your mother?" in a way that sends chills up my spine. "What did I do Mom?" I whimper, terrified. She complains of pain in her back. I call the nurse. The nurse tells me she's not in pain. I tell her she just said she was. Nurse gets a doctor. My mother tells the doctor her back hurts. They kick up the pain meds. The pain gets better. My mom is experiencing delirium. She tells me to bring her water over and over again. She tells me the water isn't the water. I call upon all my experience dealing with people whacked out of their minds on drugs in my efforts to work with her. I discover that if I walk across the room with the water and bring it back, she'll accept it. My father and younger brother arrive and we all go through the water routine with her, except with washcloths this time. It's exhausting. The doctor tells us this behavior could mean she's transitioning toward an event.

One of my mother's brothers visits her that day. I stay until 8:30pm, and go home to take a shower. As soon as I get in the door, Koko asks for gummy worms. "You get me gummy worms?" Oh. Damn. Poopsie did ask me to pick him up gummy worms in one of the many conversations I had with her on my cellphone. I try to "worm out of it." I get in the shower. Koko is in hysterics. I promise him I will go to the store and get them. I get dressed and go to Rite-Aid. Damn. It's closed. I go to Hannaford and buy two bags of gummy worms, a snickers, a bag of chips and a bottle of Coke. I go home and ask if Koko would like to send a gummy worm to Grandma. He does the right thing. That's my boy.

I pound the junkfood in the car on the way back to the hospital. It is superior to any of the schwagg available in the Fletcher Allen compound. The food they sell is designed to keep you there. What's up with that?

Friday 10:00pm- Arrive back at my mom's room. My brother has to take my poor old man home. He's been there fourteen hours. That's a lot for a man about to turn ninety-nine next month. It's my job to keep the vigil. My older brother and his wife are on their way from Kansas but won't arrive until Saturday afternoon. Friday night I'm alone with my mom, and I'm scared. In one of her few wakeful moments my mother says "ok let's go. let's get dressed. let's go." And motions weakly to uncover her bedsheet, mimicking the act of getting up.

I'll be honest here. I've never seen anyone die before. I was scared. The nurses let me keep the door open. I sit on the side of the bed near the door and watch my mom in the pale light. I'm getting sleep deprived. The shadows are playing tricks on her face. Out the window behind her I see the superstructure atop the original Mary Fletcher Hospital. The two windows of the little room are aglow while the rest of the old hospital below it is dark. I am literally seeing before me a little room with a light on in the sky.

"The black rectangle in the hall, the room in the sky with a light on, the little angel doll someone left here...Get it? Get it?"

I go have a talk with one of the nurses. She talks to me about what to expect. This comforts me and steadies me quite a bit. All of the nurses and doctors and staff up there are heroes. I can't say enough about how caring and professional they were. All of them. They all looked like kids. No joke, twelve-year-olds with clipboards and lab coats- but they must age backwards like Mork, because these people were wise and good.

After a couple of hours my younger brother comes back and we spend the rest of the night in these weird uncomfortable recliners they got up there. I sleep about four hours, but very badly. I go get coffee at about 6:00am on Saturday morning.

Saturday is a blur to me. I was there all day until about 10:00pm. My mom's two other brothers came and said goodbye. My older brother and his wife and daughter all arrived. Other friends, relatives, kids, Poopsie even made it up thanks to her parents always being so helpful. We sang Amazing Grace and a Pastor came down from Saint Albans to pray. I rocked my mother like a baby. And speaking of amazing grace, even in her weakened state, my mother still covered her mouth every time she coughed. We all cried and held my mom's hand. I shared stories with my cousin Ann about childhood Christmases at our grandmother's trailer in Sudbury. In short it was a party. And basically my mother was able to give some sign or reaction of recognition to everyone. I went home around 10:40pm.

When I got home at 11:00, both kids were still up. I take a shower and get dressed again. Poopsie asked if I had any energy left to rock the baby to sleep. You've got to be f*cking kidding me. I rock the baby to sleep. My little Yanna Louise. She was born in March. Even though I'm beyond tired, rocking the baby gives me energy. Anything having to do with my normal life was preferable to the insane death-vigil hospital room, bad food purgatory I was in a hurry to get back to. Of course I'm only human. I needed sleep, which I got in my clothes on top of the covers from about 1am to 5:30am on Sunday. I knew I'd make it if I got there by dawn. My mom is a morning person, so I knew she wouldn't die at night. I went back to the hospital.

Sunday January 13, 6:00am. I arrive back in my mom's hospital room. The stragglers who crashed overnight at the party were my mom, my dad, my older brother and his wife, my younger brother and his girlfriend. The room was pretty funkified. Everybody shuffled out and went home. The place was a mess. I guess you could say my mom was too. I had no doubt that would be her last day. There were now four of those weird recliners in the room. I pushed them neatly to where the other bed would go had my mother had a roommate, and set about cleaning up the cups and the candy wrappers, et cetera that littered the room. I know my mother likes things clean and neat like me, so that was the first thing I did that day to help her (and me) prepare.

Then I was alone with her for hours. I knew she was with me because whenever I got up to pee or call a nurse, she would squeeze my hand slightly. I talked to her all morning. Holding her hand and wiping her nose. Coaching her. You can go Mom. You're free. There's nothing to worry about. There's nothing left to do. I'm going to be fine. Dad's going to be taken care of. I have a wonderful wife and she will take care of me. I don't need you any more. I'll be successful. And by the way, you might want to think about moving this thing along before this place turns into Grand Central again... listen, I'm going to pass you over to Grandma and she's going to walk you the rest of the way... Grandma's going to come pick you up. I called on the spirit of my grandmother who died in 2000 to come get her daughter. I sang "History Will Teach Us Nothing" by Sting. I sang Happy Birthday to my mom in advance of today. I told her Heaven had an all you can eat buffet of the most delicious foods and she could eat forever and never gain weight. I told her she didn't need her body any more. I told her her soul was safe. I told her I was a priest. In that moment I was. I said "Let's get dressed Mom. Let's get dressed."

All the while I was watching her deteriorate by the hour. I could could to five-one-thousand between her breaths in the morning. As her pain increased, only to three-one-thousand. I had the nurse kick it up a notch twice on the meds. I know my mother wanted me to. Monty Python kept going through my mind..."always look on the bright side of death...just before you draw your terminal breath..."

My father in law came in for about half an hour around noon. I told him I was watching the life fade from my mother's eyes like a cigarette ember burning out slowly in a snowbank. Then my sister-in-law came. Then my older brother. Then my younger brother, his girlfriend and our dad arrived.

By 1:30pm on Sunday, the inner circle was in place. We read a short hand out on what to expect. At one point there was a very pregnant pause as we all stood there waiting for her to die. "Well she can still hear us," I said, and we all kept talking. Telling her how good it will be for her to reunite with all her old friends and relatives including her second husband. How she can let go of the pain now, et cetera.

I was holding her arm and rubbing her back as she went. "You're doing great Mom." I said. It felt a lot like coaching a birth.

So my mother died peacefully. She died gracefully, and she died with dignity. Of course we all cried, but the first thing I said was "This is the happy part. Her pain is over." And it was. And I was exhausted. My older brother suggested I write the obituary and I agreed. I called my mom's brothers and I called my wife. I kissed my mom on the head and bolted.

I went home and ended up in a fight with Poopsie, which gave me a great excuse to go to the OP and toss back a few. Well seven, actually. And fast. Hey- I think that's normal, don't you? You miss a week of sleep and watch your mother pass away, you go out and get drunk. Am I wrong? I went out and watched football ate popcorn and enjoyed everything about not being stuck in a hospital room and everything about being still alive. Smells, sounds and tastes were extra delicious at the OP that night.

So I've been up all night writing this. I've gotta go do this last thing in a few hours and it will be time to move on. The main thing about this experience is that is taught me how strong and brave and good I actually am. I feel a lot older today than I did at the beginning of last week. I'm brittle and I'm slight and I'm growing a beard. But I am a great person. I helped my mom into the afterlife like a champ and I don't have any regrets.

I'm comfortable with the post I've just written. My mother would have liked it. It's an important story and I'm proud to share it. It helps me to share it. I need to heal. I'm in shock. I'm sad. I'm in pain. But life goes on, and I feel good about myself.

What else could I ask for on my birthday?

Thank you Mom and Happy Birthday! I love you!
posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 12:10 AM  
  • At January 18, 2008 5:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Did you drive home drunk?

  • At January 18, 2008 5:12 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    No. My wife sent her goons to pick me up.

  • At January 18, 2008 8:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nicely done, H.


  • At January 18, 2008 10:52 AM, Blogger Cassandra Jupiter said…

    Happy Birthday Haik. I look forward to seeing you.
    Your post is very well written, resonated in me and made me cry.

  • At January 18, 2008 12:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Very tasteful and dignified.

  • At January 18, 2008 7:43 PM, Blogger flameape said…

    having lost my mother 3 years ago- i feel for ya. i can only say- good luck and good health in what will be a difficult time for you. take the time to not think about your loss when you can- allow others to help you and get your rest.if only i'd listened to this advice when i went through same stuff...

  • At January 18, 2008 7:47 PM, Blogger flameape said…

    I did not want to spoil the above sympathies with the following sarcastic birthday wish:

    HAPPY birthday! You are 35 slugger- which means only 5 years till you are officially old/clueless/creepy to people under the age of 20.


  • At January 18, 2008 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When will you give your gift to the world? Your writing brought up feelings in me I hadn't felt for some time. Thank you Haik and Happy Birthday!

  • At January 19, 2008 1:07 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    Your obituary was very touching and very well written. I printed it out for my mom who has been in mourning for your mother since the moment I told her of her passing. They shared lots of good memories together. You've done very well by your mother; she'd be proud.

    On a lighter note, I noticed that your father posts comments on your blog. Your father is the central character in some of my most colorful childhood memories. If you get a chance, let him know that I didn't grow up to become a fargin gangster :) I had some rough patches but I think I turned out alright. I think we all did, despite ourselves.


  • At January 19, 2008 3:17 PM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    I was afraid your mom would take it hard, O'Seanasee. Death is one mean gitch-e-mitch bubaway. Send Hazel my love.

    When I get my Dad to stop calling me a fargin gangster, I'll try to convince him you aren't one either.

    Thanks for your kind words, my friend.

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"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

-Emma Lazarus, 1883

Church Street Energy System

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